La La Land is, hands down, the movie of the year! It's sheer perfection as it refuels a dying genre. It's my favorite film of 2016.
I'm a sucker when it comes to musicals, but La La Land will sweep you off your feet with its music, dance numbers, performances, direction and vivid beauty. The film pays tremendous homage to past musicals such as Singin' in the Rain (1952), The Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951), Mary Poppins (1964) and West Side Story (1961), applauding their past perfections in every way. Breathing new life into a bygone genre, writer and director Damien Chazelle’s (The Oscar winning film Whiplash) original musical is the reason why we go to the movies. La La Land’s irresistible tap-dance numbers will have the audience singing from beginning until end.
The movie event of the year has finally arrived and it proved so by winning a record-breaking seven Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director - Motion Picture, Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Ryan Gosling), Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Emma Stone), Best Original Score and Best Original Song (City of Stars). La La Land tells the simple story of Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in the city of stars. This original musical will explore the everyday life of joy and pain, while pursing your dreams.
These grand musical numbers that composer Justin Hurwitz orchestrates include Another Day of Sun, Someone in the Crowd, A Lovely Night, City of Stars, Planetarium and Audition (The Fools Who Dream). Gosling and Stone’s chemistry radiates throughout the film as we see their love and heartbreaks as passionate artist. Gosling has never been better and Stone is magnificent has she showcases her acting chops. Tapping my toes while I watched this enchanting picture will bring out the very best in you. I guarantee it.
Movies like this don’t come around very often and La La Land is a movie worth cheering for. Simply wonderful, this all around crowd-pleaser deservers all five stars. Filled with nostalgia and a rhapsody of love, La La Land is the film to beat this Oscars season. Chazelle was a born to be a filmmaker as he draws you in with its moonstruck romance. La La Land is a throwback to the Golden Age of musicals as it takes love and turns it into bittersweet moments. I’ve already seen this masterpiece twice now and I can’t wait to see it again. “The city of stars has never shined so brightly."
La La Land is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some language.
Marvel continues to artfully balance its universe stuffed of superheroes with strong visuals, great performances and breathtaking action sequences.
Directed Scott Derrickson (Sinister) continues the MCU’s reign of hero power that started back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Derrickson brings a list of A-class actors (Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg and Benedict Wong) to the table supported with smart writing and wondrous special effects. In the bargain, we get yet another origins story but that’s okay because it helps the audience emotional establish and connect with their protagonist. This is something the DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad) has been failing at since the dreary days of 2013.
Our story begins with a disgraced former surgeon named Stephen Strange (The never better Cumberbatch), who becomes a powerful sorcerer under the guardianship of a mystic force known as the Ancient One (a fantastic Swinton). Also addressing the controversy around whitewashing the Ancient One, Derrickson felt that the Ancient One was more of a title rather than a person. Additionally, this was also intended to avoid the risk of portraying any negative racial stereotypes, as the appearance of the Ancient One in the comics is based around the Tibetan Monks. So with Derrickson changing the character to avoid controversy he still received some controversy.
Nevertheless, Swinton gives us a smashing performance as the powerful sorcerer from beginning until end. Actors McAdams, Mikkelsen, and Ejiofor also help support the leads with their wit and brawn throughout the film. Doctor Strange delivers proud MCU entertainment throughout and gives the audience a sneak peak of more to follow. It has been confirmed that Strange will be in Thor: Ragnarok coming out this fall. This will be even more of a treat to see Chris Hemsworth and Cumberbatch’s chemistry working together on screen. Doctor Strange is grand popcorn entertainment infused with eye-popping effects and geek boy thrills. In a year filled with multiple superhero films, Doctor Strange comes out on top.
Doctor Strange is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.
Delivering one of the most real dramas of 2016 filled with full-bodied characters, Manchester by the Sea will destroy your heart and soul.
When watching Manchester by the Sea, director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me and Margaret) will open a volt to your insecurities about life, love and loss. It’s a film so emotionally raw that you’ll be weeping like a sad puppy by the end. Boldly confidant, Lonergan absorbs the struggle of losing someone dear to your heart in this fallen world and at the center of it all is actor Casey Affleck. Affleck gives us one of his most painstaking performances to-date as a heart-sicken man recovering after the sudden death of his older brother Joe (a terrific Kyle Chandler).
Lee (Affleck) also comes into more shock when he finds out that Joe made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Newcomer Hedges gives us a tor de force performance of a son dealing will grief and adjustment to life after the death of his father. Patrick is a spirited 16-year-old forced to tackle the past and his father’s legacy. One of the most tear-jerking moments comes when Patrick realizes that his father can’t be buried until the spring because of the extremely cold winters up in Massachusetts. This leads Patrick to have a mental breakdown in the kitchen when frozen food falls out of the freezer and onto the floor.
Your heart will break for Patrick by relating to a moment in time when we all felt at our most vulnerable. Lee also has his demons still haunting him in Manchester-by-the-Sea (the town), which brings up old memories and heartaches. While there, Lee runs into his ex-wife Randi (a powerful Michelle Williams) who tries to let bygones be bygones with Lee. Affleck and Williams share many crucial moments on screen with each other where they both dig into their past tragedies. Both Affleck and Williams are definite Oscar contenders this season. Affleck, for sure, has my vote for Best Leading Actor of 2016.
Besides the emotional attribute, Manchester also delivers on the vivid beauty of scenery shots throughout the film. Lonergan’s newest masterwork deserves 5 out of 5 stars, as it will emotionally impact you in the days that follow. As I was leaving the theater, I over heard two friends talking about the film and what they thought about it. One of the friends said, “It was sad, just really sad.” Yes, Manchester by the Sea is a sad film, but it’s much more than just that. Manchester is a real film filled with real people as it reflects on life’s most disturbing flaw … death.
Manchester by the Sea is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout and some sexual content.
Flawed on every level, this star-studded package of sappiness makes Collateral Beauty plunge into a state of hilarity.
Universally panned by critics, Collateral Beauty makes the Hallmark Channel look like Best Picture. Yes, that’s how bad this film actually is. While the film is well-meant, nevertheless, Will Smith’s latest dud is fundamentally weak. The star-studded cast consisting of Smith, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet are completely wasted throughout the entire film.
Grinding my teeth raw, here’s the plot: When a successful New York advertising executive (Smith) suffers a great tragedy he isolates himself from life. Though his friends are concerned and try desperately to reconnect with him, Howard (Smith) seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. Director David Frankel’s (The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me) film is a wannabe tearjerker that lacks all emotional depth itself.
Take Manchester by the Sea, a film that gets it right when it comes to displaying tragedy and emotional turmoil in one’s life. Manchester, by all means, is a far superior film when it comes to filming heartache and loss through the lens of a camera. I would rather watch Manchester by the Sea over-and-over again any given day, before sitting through another showing of Collateral Beauty. The cynical nature rooted within Smith's film will not entertain but frustrate. Collateral Beauty is one of 2016’s worst films and will leave you wanting to wash that bad stench off yourself afterwards.
Collateral Beauty is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements and brief strong language.